Tennis legend Stan Smith has offered Novak Djokovic an unfortunate reality check even if he is to surpass Roger Federer’s Grand Slam haul.
Smith, a hall of fame great with more than 100 professional titles to his name, weighed in on the debate of the greatest tennis player ever.
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Federer is considered the most popular tennis star to have ever played the game and often enjoys the vast majority of support from fans no matter where he plays in the world.
Djokovic recently said he felt it ‘unfair’ he didn’t receive more support from the crowd when facing the likes of Federer and Rafael Nadal after everything he had achieved.
But when Smith was recently asked if anyone would ever match Federer’s popularity, he gave a sobering answer.
The two-time Grand Slam champ said current World No.1 Djokovic will most likely overtake Federer’s 20 Grand Slam titles, but will probably never match his popularity with the fans.
"If they [Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer] were to play in Serbia, the crowd would still be split 50-50 because Federer is so popular around the world," Smith told Ubitennis.
"He would go into the encounter thinking he might have the home-court advantage."
Smith put it down to Federer’s ‘gracious’ demeanour on court, while Djokovic wears his heart on his sleeve.
"It's just about personality that comes across on the court. Roger Federer is relatively more gracious to his opponents no matter what the situation may be but Novak is more of a fighter and he shows his emotions a bit more,” Smith said.
Smith labelled the ‘Big Three’ - Federer, Rafael Nadal and Djokovic - alongside Rod Laver, Bjorn Borg, and Pete Sampras.
But his current ‘greatest of all time’ is Federer.
Greats fear for Federer’s career
The tennis world won't see Federer in action again this year, and by the time 2021 rolls around, the dominant player we've come to know and love may be lost forever.
That's the concern of two leading tennis experts, who believe the nature of Federer's injury, and the Swiss great's advancing years, spell trouble for his prospects of another incredible comeback.
The tennis world was left shocked and saddened when Federer announced he had suffered a setback while working back to fitness in rehabilitation during the coronavirus pandemic.
Renowned coach Brad Gilbert says while he is reluctant to "write him off", he thinks the odds of Federer being able to get back to his best are slim, considering it can often take much younger players up to six months to regain full competitiveness after a long injury lay-off.
Former Wimbledon winner Goran Ivanisevic shares similar concerns, insisting that Federer's injury puts Novak Djokovic in the box seat to overtake the Swiss maestro's record 20 grand slam singles titles.
“Unfortunately, I don’t think Federer will win any more Grand Slams, because he certainly won’t come back younger. But Federer should not be written off,” he told Nova TV.